- The Washington Times - Monday, August 5, 2002

The D.C. Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear arguments tomorrow in Mayor Tony Williams' petition case. The hearing itself that is, how the judges and the attorneys on either side conduct the proceedings will likely be somber. After all, the fact that the mayor faced no significant Democratic challengers in the upcoming primary (and no Republican whatsoever), but already had a considerable war chest before he even picked up his petitions in May, spoke volumes about his winning politics. Still, it is hoped that the outcome of tomorrow's hearings will push politics aside.
The three judges are Associate Judge Michael Farrell, a former federal prosecutor and appointee of the first Bush administration, and Associate Judges Inez Smith Reid and Eric Washington, two Clinton appointees. Judge Reid has roots in the D.C. and federal governments. She is a former inspector general for the Environmental Protection Agency and a former appointee of Marion Barry, having held the post of D.C. Corporation Counsel from 1983 to 1985. Judge Reid has penned numerous articles, including one in 1987 that asked, "Is there a need for an elected D.C. attorney general?" She served as the D.C. government's top lawyer in the years proceeding federal prosecutors' battles with corruption and malfeasance in the upper reaches of the Barry administration, and prior to several poorly run D.C. programs being taking over by the courts. One can only imagine how an elected attorney general would handle the criminal allegations that may result from the petition scandal.
And scandalous it is. Following allegations of fraud, forgery and outright perjury against the Williams campaign's signature-gathering process and the admission of foul-ups reported in the press D.C. Registrar of Voters Kathryn Fairley announced July 26 that her review validated more than enough signatures to qualify Mr. Williams. But, within moments of her announcement, the three-member board of the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics rejected her review. The board's decision stemmed from the fact that some campaign workers including Scott Bishop Sr. and his son, Scott Jr. refused to testify that the petitions were duly circulated and the signatures properly collected. In fact, they invoked the Fifth Amendment, neither vouching for nor disputing the validity of the petitions.
The board's ruling forced the mayor, a lifelong Democrat, to launch a write-in campaign. That ever-so-risky move allowed his campaign to keep its $1.4 million in donations and ward off potential threats from well-known playmakers. So, as things stand, Mr. Williams remains a shoo-in.
The Williams campaign also launched a legal battle, filing a lawsuit and calling the board's ruling "capricious and lawless." The suit does have a point. The petitions and the signatures are supposed to be presumed valid unless proven otherwise. And, although the voter registrar's signature-by-signature review did not validate all 10,000-plus signatures turned in by the Williams camp, she did validate 2,235 more than the required 2,000. Moreover, the three-member board so much as admitted that its lack of confidence in the petitions stands on what campaign workers told the media and what they did not say at the board's own hearing. The board would place a "terrible cloud" over the decision if it accepted questionable petitions gathered by questionable campaign workers, said board member Jonda McFarlane. Chairman Benjamin Wilson said, "We found the non-answers from the Bishops telling. They had been responsible for submitting many pages that were no longer an issue but contained forgeries."
A pertinent question, then, for the appeals court is this: Did the election board have the legal standing to overturn the registrar? After all, the registrar's mandates and prerogatives are rooted in law not the folly of politics.


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